The Ultimate Experience Guide

By Su Byron and Marty Fugate Photography by Marry McCulley and Matt McCourtney July 31, 2011

Clockwise from right: Dreams of luxury in Sarasota abound—and can be fulfilled—whether it’s a meal and a setting to die for at the Crosley Estate; an intimate feast at the Belvedere Tower at Cà d’ Zan; an indulgent day at the spa courtesy of The Met; an architectural gem; a butterfly garden; an exotic orchid; or a guitar created especially for you.The new luxury is all about peak experiences that enrich and expand your life. We combed our city for a dozen delights that transcend mere conspicuous consumption and distill the essence of what makes this place so gloriously unique, from natural beauty to artistic expression. Some are wildly expensive; a few almost anyone can afford. But every one will lift your spirit, inspire your senses and create lasting memories as well.


Platinum Spa Day

We asked the experts at The Met Fashion House Day Spa & Salon to design a “Platinum Spa Day” exclusively for our readers. It starts with the “Ultimate Body Polish,” an invigorating sea salt and aromatherapy combination, followed by “The Bliss Massage,” which combines traditional massage with aromatherapy, energy balancing and marma therapy. (Marmas are energy points that are gently massaged for healing, relaxing and renewing.)

Ready for more? Experience a HydraFacial, a non-laser skin resurfacing that combines cleansing, exfoliation, extraction, hydration and antioxidant protection. Other extravagances include a hair consultation with The Met’s creative director, William Johnson, followed by a “Deluxe Hair Salon Ritual and Styling,” which promises to “reveal your hair’s inner beauty.” This might be a good time to stop and enjoy a gourmet lunch from The Best of the Circle. After lunch, you’ll receive an interactive make-up lesson and application with Trish McEvoy artist extraordinaire Anne Shumacher with $300 worth of Trish McEvoy products. Then a Met $500 shopping spree with a personal shopper, who will help select fashions and accessories suited for your body and style. Crown the day with a $500 work of jewelry from Ivanka Trump’s Collection, exclusive to Queens Wreath Jewels at The Met. And as a Platinum reader, you can enjoy this outrageously indulgent day, which would normally cost $2,000, for only $1,500. 35 S. Boulevard of Presidents, Sarasota, (941) 388-3991,


A serene retreat near the heart of downtown at the Cypress Inn; live the famous “Sarasota” lifestyle in this landmark houseA Downtown B & B

Downtown Sarasota has never been more dynamic, with new shops, restaurants and an after-dark scene that’s attracting both young and old. The Cypress Inn is the perfect place for a downtown “staycation,” offering quiet charm and history in the midst of the new urban energy. This circa-1940 bed and breakfast overlooks downtown Sarasota’s bayfront, though it’s hidden from the street by the towering oaks, palms and mango trees. Innkeepers Vicky Hadley and Nina and Robert Belott have created an elegant retreat appointed with antiques, art and artifacts. Our favorite of the five guest rooms is the Martha Rose suite, with a balcony overlooking the bay, a French mansion bed and a sitting room with Victorian furnishings. Special indulgences include a gourmet breakfast, a sunset sail, an in-room massage for two and a catered candlelit dinner in the garden. $1,200 for two nights for two people, 621 S. Gulfstream Ave., Sarasota, (941) 955-4683,


A bottle of Dom Perignon Rose awaiting you in a Delmonico’s menu reprise from Simply Gourmet Caterers.Gourmet Time Travel

In 1837, the original Delmonico’s in New York City set a stratospheric standard for luxury dining. Although the physicists are still working the bugs out of time travel, chef Larry Barrett of Simply Gourmet Caterers offers the next best thing with his “Meal of a Lifetime.” A fan of edible historical recreations, Barrett will replicate Delmonico’s menu from the early 1920s—think Boardwalk Empire—at Sarasota’s historic Powel Crosley Estate, built in 1929.

Guests dine in the circular Ship Room, overlooking Sarasota Bay. A pianist tinkles tunes of the era, and Dom Perignon Rose 2000 is the first of a host of wines and spirits. Civilized conversation ensues while you taste a dozen or more appetizers passed butler-style. They include Russian Malossol Osetra Caviar, Mimosa Parfait with citrus-marinated blue crab, and Oysters Jim Brady. The entrée is Lobster Wenberg, Lobster Newberg’s original name before Chef Wenberg got on the bad side of Mr. Delmonico. Baked Alaska Flambé follows, along with artisanal American cheeses. “If you had one meal left on earth before the aliens abducted you, this should be it,” says Barrett. $10,200 for party of 12, $850 per guest. 8374 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 929-0066,


Home Sweet Sarasota Home

The Sarasota School of Architecture, a variant of mid-century modernism, flourished here from the late 1940s through the ’60s, winning international acclaim. Architecture lovers make pilgrimages to our area to see the few examples that have not been demolished or renovated beyond recognition. If you also swoon over the clean lines and airy openness of the style, what could be more satisfying than to actually live in one of the gems that remain? The Rupp-Seibert house, designed by William Rupp in 1960, has been lovingly renovated by architect Sam Holladay, owner of Seibert Architects. A Zen meditation of concrete, wood and glass, the structure is sheltered by a courtyard wall and lush, tropical landscaping. Inside, the open, modular layout is bathed in natural light from rows of clerestory windows. Free-floating stairs rise up to a secluded loft, and there’s also a peaceful heated pool and patio. For $675,000, you can own an architectural gem and living piece of Sarasota history. Listed by Martie Lieberman, (941) 724-1118,


Consider giving a gift for future generations with a donation to the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast’s new butterfly gardenA Legacy of Land

Philanthropists know that the greatest joy comes from giving. Leave a lasting legacy by protecting what makes Sarasota so special: its beautiful environment. The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast will recognize your donation by naming its new butterfly garden in your honor, or in honor of someone you love. The spacious garden is part of Bay Preserve, a 4.3-acre nature preserve overlooking Little Sarasota Bay in Osprey. (This is just one of the 20 land areas that the Conservation Foundation has protected since 2003.) For this venture, the foundation’s naturalists have planted approximately 600 trees and shrubs; all are butterfly-friendly and attractive to hummingbirds and songbirds, as well as people of all ages. What better way for your name—or the names of your loved ones—to be remembered as a source of joy that will last forever? $50,000 for naming opportunity. Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, (941) 918-2100,


Sweet Dreams

A great night’s sleep is priceless, so we asked Marcus Anast at Sarasota Collection to build us the comfiest imaginable Sarasota bed. He started with an EcoMattress l. “A great mattress feels like a luxury, but it’s truly a necessity,” he says. “We spend about a third of our lives asleep. If you sleep on an EcoMattress, I’ll guarantee you’ll have a great day.”

These mattresses pamper the body with bio-based memory foam that shapes itself to you and not the other way around and provides nine times the airflow of synthetic memory foam ($2,399, king-size). Of course, no heavenly sleep experience is complete without heavenly sheets and pillows. Anast suggests the Italian-made Legna line of sheets. Made from wood pulp, they’re silky smooth and yet strong as cotton ($2,399 for king set). Top it with a custom-made, white goose-down duvet ($465), and pillows billowing with goose down (two standard; two king, $280). And on chilly evenings, snuggle under an Italian-made cashmere blanket ($1,800). Sweet dreams! 622 Central Ave., Sarasota, (941) 955-8313,


Island-Hop by Yacht

Explore the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico and barrier islands aboard the striking 60-foot yacht Great Lady. The yacht has three private staterooms, a full crew, and catered meals prepared to your specifications. The three-night cruise visits Sanibel and Captiva islands, Charlotte Harbor, Cabbage Key, Useppa and Boca Grande. The yacht will dock at island resorts and towns along the way, leaving you plenty of time for a round of golf or tennis, a dip in a pool, and exploring, shopping and dining. You can choose the islands to visit and the itinerary that suits your tastes. At the end of your island hopping, Sarasota emerges as one jewel on a beautiful necklace of subtropical gems. From $2,495 for six people. Sarasota Yacht & Ship Services, (941) 365-9095


IMG Bollettieri Tennis AcademyTrain with Nick at IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy

The best place in the world to raise the level of your tennis game is right here at home, at Bradenton’s IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy. You’ll be trained by the same coaches who have coached legions of tennis greats during this five-day fantasy camp. You’ll receive six hours of daily on-court workshops, daily private lessons, on-court video analysis of your performance, daily mental and physical conditioning sessions, post-training regeneration sessions, vision training and nutrition consultation. And if all that doesn’t increase your heart rate, consider this: IMG founder Nick Bollettieri himself will give you a private lesson. So far, the legendary tennis guru has coached 10 players to top-ranking status. It’s a safe bet he’ll improve your game.

When you’re not pursuing your personal best, you’ll be indulged with such luxe extras as a four-bedroom, on-site condo, access to the wellness spa and daily sports massages. Whether you’re a passionate player or a weekend warrior, expect a life-changing tennis experience. $9,000 per person, (800) 872-6425.


Orchid lovers find ultimate bliss with a unique Selby Gardens offering.Orchid Obsessions

Orchids have fascinated people for centuries, setting explorers off on round-the-world expeditions and inspiring books and legends. Our own Marie Selby Botanical Gardens enjoys worldwide recognition as an orchid research center and home to more than 28,000 liquid-preserved specimens, 30,000 pressed and dried orchid specimens, and more than 4,000 live orchid species.

We asked the experts at Selby to design the perfect “Platinum” experience for an orchid lover, and they rose to the challenge with a three-month-long package. Every month, they will choose a magnificent specimen from their greenhouses—each one a different variety—and hand-deliver it to the lucky recipient. They’ll also arrange a one-hour discussion with Angel Lara, Selby’s greenhouse manager and an expert on the lore and care of these legendary plants. $500. 811 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-5731,


Explore the beautiful depths of our area’s underwater world on  Florida Underwater Sports’ guided diving expeditionsDiver’s Delight

Beneath our region’s surface beauty lies an underwater world that’s just as beautiful and enthralling. You can explore these hidden depths in style aboard Florida Underwater Sports’ Reef Dog, a 40-foot Dorado Express. Master diver Capt. Scott Serbin and two other divers are your guides for an exciting day both above and below the water. Your submerged destination is the Bayronto, a grain freighter that foundered in a hurricane in 1919. An artifact of Florida’s history, the wreck has also become a de facto artificial reef that harbors all sorts of sea creatures.

Your dive guides will help you explore this land of the lost—and capture the experience on digital HD (you’ll have to supply your own Jacques Cousteau narration). Guests will also do some fossil hunting in the “Boneyard” off the Venice shoreline. With a little luck, you’ll find that ultimate Megalodon tooth to take home. Luxe details include a catered breakfast and picnic lunch. $1,600 for up to 6 people. 6345 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 870-4461,


a custom guitar from Sarasota Guitar Company may make your heart singBuild Your Own Guitar

Music is a big part of our city, and for a musician, the ultimate luxury is the ultimate instrument. The new Sarasota Guitar Company can create the custom guitar of a guitarist’s dream. The store’s Scott Cook will design a custom Taylor brand guitar that fits you like a hand-tailored suit.

With Cook’s help, you can choose from a variety of exotic woods—among them Hawaiian Koa and Madagascar rosewood. As to detailing, you can add Gothic vine fretboard inlays, a flock of tiny parrots creeping up the guitar staff, design an abalone rosette that will shine like diamonds or surround the center hole with mother-of-pearl. The choices are staggering—240 options in all. A Taylor master luthier will lovingly build your creation, and Sarasota Guitar Company will oversee the entire process. In about nine weeks, you’ll be ready to serenade Sarasota society in style. $3,500-$20,000. 4333 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 924-8321,


View from the Tower

Back in the Gilded Age, the Belvedere Tower at Cà d’Zan, the magnificent home of John and Mable Ringling, was a private perch where the Ringlings and their entourage enjoyed a lofty vantage on the glories of Sarasota Bay and the barrier islands beyond. You and five guests can share the Ringlings’ privileged viewpoint during a special champagne sunset toast in the Belvedere Tower. The museum’s excellent restaurant, Treviso, will supply an assortment of hors d’oeuvres and the champagne. You’ll also receive a private tour of the estate with the curator of the Cà d’Zan. Who says the Gilded Age is over? $2,500. 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, (941) 359-5700, 

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